Between them, hundreds and hundreds of hours committed to The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. Rick Dakan, Nick Dinicola, and Mattie Brice get together to discuss the varied approaches that they took to exploring Skyrim.
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The “Death From Above” level in Modern Warfare was a great, unique level, putting you in an AC-130 raining explosives down upon your enemies. Since then it’s been mimicked with varying results, and Modern Warfare 2 wisely avoided retreading this familiar ground. So it’s interesting that it makes a return in Modern Warfare 3 in the level “Iron Lady,” and it’s impressive that it’s not a repeat of what’s come before. Infinity Ward has changed how the sequence plays in subtle ways that reflect how the series has evolved.
Platformers can offer a reliable breath of fresh air from the cornucopia of complex and dense games. The exhilaration of moving quickly through a level or mastering skilled jumps with ease is endlessly rewarding. More than this, I love the frequent transparency of platformers and the joy of a well taught lesson.Take Outland for example, an overlooked 2011 release from Housemarque. The game is aptly described as an Ikaruga platformer. The protagonist swaps between emitting a blue and red aura, dodging or absorbing colored bullets while platforming between stages. These distinct colors literally put the mechanics on artistic display, and after an hour of play, even the rate at which hearts drop from enemies becomes predictable. Like numerous adventure games before it, Outland also unlocks locations and abilities gradually to ease players into the world. Ubisoft Montpellier’s Rayman Origins also utilizes such a gradual teaching method with amazing finesse and offers an even better opportunity to explore the risks and rewards of gated learning.
I do like games that celebrate little boys.
Some might argue that most games celebrate little boys, from the juvenile and madcap mayhem of Saints Row: the Third to the countless titles that allow for cooing over big breasts in bikinis or big breasts in chainmail or big breasts in chainmail bikinis. But I’m not talking about that man-boy crap. I’m talking about real little boys, the cool ones.
2011 wasn’t a bad year for games. There were some disappointments, some unsung gems, and some outstanding successes. One game that struck audiences as being all three is Rocksteady’s Batman: Arkham City. “Sure,” the universal criticism begins, “it’s tightly designed, it has fluid controls and the world—while having a somewhat silly premise—is open and free. Still, it can’t hold a candle to the more focused, superior narrative of Arkham Asylum.” While Asylum did have the advantage of having no precedent, the more schizophrenic tone of City adds a dimension that few have overlooked. Specifically, it illustrates what Batman might feel like on a nightly basis.
Even the most pedestrian Batman fan can leave Asylum with a diploma in Batman studies. Asylum told the story of the Joker using a handful of other villains to keep one step ahead of the caped crusader until he inevitably backed himself into a corner, where Batman disposed of him with little difficulty. Underlying that story was the excellent collectible system that also provided a background on a plethora of Batman’s other foes. Perusing the files of other villains gives the sense that a sizable portion of the villains were ordinary but unstable individuals until Batman punched his way into their lives. Arkham City is the Gotham that Asylum alludes to, the one that Batman created.
// Notes from the Road
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